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Sports on election day

If We Canceled Pro Sports Games on Election Day, Would More People Vote?

Sports on election day

The Cleveland Cavaliers played the Atlanta Hawks on Election Day, drawing 20,000 people to the stands in Ohio. How many didn’t vote that day because they were busy with the game?

by A. Big Country

Once every four years, citizens of the United States get to exercise their democratic right to choose the next leader of the country.  When and how they do this has been the subject of controversy, with fewer polling places and additional hurdles for people to cast ballots. In fact, preliminary numbers find that this election saw roughly 130 million votes, the lowest voter turnout since the 2004 George W. Bush-John Kerry election.  That’s just about 57 percent of the population that’s eligible to vote.


There have been many cries for Election Day to be a national holiday, alleviating the need for people to take time off work to vote.  The repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prevented voter suppression by prohibiting racial discrimination, played a hand in lower voter turnout.  One aspect of the Act requires districts with large minority populations to offer bilingual ballots.  This was repealed by the Supreme Court because the act was not responsive to current conditions.

Having both of those implemented (or re-implemented) would go a long way to solving this issue.  But what about professional sports?    

Sports is a massive part of many Americans’ lives, as TV ratings and event attendance show. Just this past weekend, Sunday Night Football drew 22.5 million viewers, and the 4 p.m. EST Game of the Week got 24.5 million. That’s a lot of people. Many will be sitting down to watch a day of games on Thanksgiving. 

These numbers raise the question of whether professional sports should be played on Election Day.   

Election Day is always a Tuesday. Just how many games are played on a Tuesday night in November? Let’s take a look.

Sports on election day chart

Looking at this, we can tell that more than 222,000 people attended sporting events throughout the country on Tuesday. And that does not include people watching from home or elsewhere. Of course, there isn’t a way to tell whether or not these people voted, but without question, if they are employed and have families and other responsibilities, it would a tight schedule. It is also worth noting that some of these games took place in some of the most contested states (over 20,000 people at a game in Ohio; nearly 40,000 at two separate games in Pennsylvania).

This year’s election proved just how critical it is to give all Americans an opportunity to vote. Perhaps one step in that direction would be to stop giving them so many ways to avoid it.  


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